September 19, 2000
by Fred Marchman
The Cathedral Square Gallery in downtown Mobile is pleased to present the ceramic art of Senorita Maria Luisa Valente from Parana, Entre Rios, Argentina -- a town well north of Buenos Aires by several hours towards the Brazilian border. Born there in 1964 she is now a teacher of ceramics and painting at the Instituto Superior de Artes Visuales de Parana.
She has had several one-person and group exhibits of her work both in Argentina and abroad. The Seminars of Ceramic Studies in Sargadelas, Spain awarded her with a scholarship in order to continue advanced courses in archaeological restoration.
She was invited by the city of Parana to set up an allegorical sculpture in the downtown area of that city.
As a member of the National Movement of Muralists she has won many prizes for her wall paintings.
In 1999, Maria Luisa was chosen by the government of the province of Entre Rios as its representative to attend the International Symposium of Ceramics in Amsterdam, Holland.
She is currently (August-September, 2000) visiting the Gulf Coast and has even created some new ceramic sculpture while in the Gulf Shores area. Specifically, the five ceramic heads which are of a comical caricature nature. The titles: "Sorprendida Senora" (surprised woman), "Que esta mirando?" (What are you looking at?), "El Beso Santo, pero no tanto" (A holy kiss, but not too much"), "Lo lamento Senor" (the crying Man), "Queres?" (You want...?).
I found these ceramic heads fascinating, especially "El Beso santo..." showing two faces kissing, separated by a pane of Plexiglas, which seemed to symbolize the separation of the sexes. In the rear of each head there is an opening and a miniature figure of a man in one and a woman in the other -- posing a psychological interpretation for the viewer to ponder. The pane of glass is used in a symbolical way in several of the other heads, yet there is no literal use of the Plexiglas as in "El Beso santo..." -- the effect is present as they appear to have their faces pressed against a window pane -- the viewer’s imagination automatically places the glass plane in place -- very effective. The glazes work effectively in contrast with the buff-toned clay body.
On the wall of the guest artist location in the Cathedral Square Gallery we see a number of disc-shaped ceramic works which the artist brought with her to the U.S.A. for exhibit. The groups of four on the right side depict Maria’s interpretation of the Four elements: earth, air, fire and water. The main group of ceramic discs beautifully glazed in red, oranges and earth tones, depict icons derived from indigenous regional Indian sources interpreted in a style that is consistent with her designs of the four elements.
These indigenous themes include "Snake," "Black Birds," "Red and Peace," "Yellow Woman," "August," "Red for three," "October," "Serpent" and "Adam and Eve." These stylized discs approximately 8 inches to 10 inches in diameter seem to draw heavily from regional Indian pottery motifs.
Even if one is of European heritage, as is Valente, it is appealing to incorporate one’s local culture into the modern artist’s lexicon, as she has done here. All the more appropriate since she has taken courses in archaeological restoration, with the view of conserving and learning of the deeper meanings of indigenous Argentine pottery and folk art.
The wall-discs are artfully designed and glazed and could have many conceivable utilitarian functions, yet are quite functional visually, as wall decoration, per se. They are also reasonably priced ranging from $45 to $55 (U.S.) for the discs, and from $150.00 to $250.00 (U.S.) for the various heads (some of them with hands, oddly giving the appearance of a person submerged up to the neck with one hand above the water). You really must see these works to appreciate both her serious and her comic sides. Cathedral Square Gallery is honored to present such a skilled ceramic sculptor of such international reputation.
The Ceramic Art of Maria Valente will continue through September at the gallery, 260 Dauphin Street. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday. Admission is free. For more information, contact Steve Dark at 968-4982 or Cathedral Square Gallery at 694-0278.
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